By Stan Friedman
CHICAGO, IL (October 27, 2011) – No one conceived of the changes that would happen to the worship services at First Covenant Church in Rockford, Illinois, when the congregation began its journey through the denomination’s vitality process, but the outcome has been a deeper sense of community and numerical growth.
During today’s Take One live webcast, which focused on church vitality, the pastor and two First Covenant members shared how the church, formed in 1875, benefitted from the process.
The panel included John Wenrich, director of congregational vitality for the Evangelical Covenant Church; Peter Sjoblom, director of congregational vitality for the Central Conference; Peter Dibley, pastor of First Covenant Church; Brent Thompson, pastor of The Journey Covenant Church in Wichita, Kansas, who appeared via Skype, and First Covenant members Betty Nordenberg and Vance Havens, who were part of church’s vitality team.
The recorded webcast can be viewed online here as well as through all of the CovLink mobile apps, which have recently been updated. The apps are available free through the Covenant website. The live roundtable webcast format enables viewers to dialogue with participants through an online side chat feature.
The Rockford congregation had worshiped in two different services, one traditional and the other more contemporary. During the evaluation process, a large number of members shared their discontent with the arrangement because they believed it had bifurcated the congregation. The upshot of the process was one worship service they call “fusion.”
“We did not intend to go to one service,” said Dibley. “It was not premeditated.” The change came about as part of “the organic process,” he explained. He says the congregation has been thrilled with the outcome.
The idea of worshiping in one service was tried during the summer. When the congregation returned to two services in September, at least 80 percent of the members wanted to go back to one service, which the church has done.
The organic nature means not all congregations will come up with the same answers to questions of how they can help people deepen their relationships with Christ and each other as well as share Christ’s love with the community. Worship was considered a weakness at First Covenant, but the process also helped the church to build on its strengths.
Wenrich acknowledged pursuing and enriching vitality is not always easy. “The journey of vitality is both treacherous and adventurous,” he said.
First Covenant members say, however, that it has been worth the trip.